* Images courtesy of Sergio Montenegro/Darkside Studios
JAMES Horvat has an ambition you wouldn’t expect from someone in the upper reaches of the NRL development system.
He wants to help Chile qualify for a Rugby League World Cup.
And at just 19 years of age, people are saying he’s a guy that could help make it happen.
Horvat, a halfback for Wentworthville in the Sydney Shield, will suit up as fullback for Chile when they make their 13-on-13 international debut versus El Salvador at Newtown Park next Saturday (June 11).
“It’s a good step in the right direction,” says James, whose mother Maria Fernandez was born in the Chilean capital of Santiago.
“I’d love to get to a World Cup.
“It’s one of my big dreams.”
He’s also a fine example of the broad array of skills it takes to work your way through the ranks.
Not only does he have the vision and pass of a playmaker, he’s quick off the mark with strong leg power, and is a punishing front-on defender.
He scored three tries for the combined Latin Heat against Thailand Stars in January and was named Player of the Tournament at the 2015 GYG Latino Sevens despite facing experienced players twice his age.
“I personally think James will make a great lock one day,” says current Chile half Brad Millar, a product of Cameron Smith’s alma mater, Marsden State High.
“He’s a guy you want defending in the middle.
“One minute James will whack blokes, then he’s got the ball and setting up his outside man or running past people.”
With time on his side, Horvat could indeed be a pivotal man as rugby league gains more traction in Latino communities, both in Latin America and abroad.
In the south, a cartoon of Darren Lockyer is used to advertise training sessions (along with Spanish text) and organisers are already producing their own merchandise.
While the strength of the current Chilean squad lies in graded heritage players raised in Australia, there’s undoubtedly an opportunity to tap into Latin America’s pervading machismo.
Should Chile continue to be front-runners of Latin Heat activities in Oz, it will be a confidence booster for their residents’ side ahead of a mooted three-way tournament with Argentina and Brazil around September in Argentina
And there are many geographical and social reasons why Chile could be the perfect landing pad for the NRL in South America.
“My Mum doesn’t follow rugby league, but I believe it could catch on.
“I was really shocked when I first learned how many Chileans and Latinos were already playing in Australia and the USA…I didn’t think there were that many.
“We’ve got an opportunity to influence a sport and a nation.”
Final team line-ups for the June 11 matches will be revealed on Wednesday, June 8.
June 11 Match Day Schedule, Henson Park, Newtown:
11.15am Colombia v Ecuador (Game 1 – Sevens)
11.35am Peru v Uruguay (Game 1 – Nines)
12noon Colombia v Ecuador (Game 2 – Sevens)
12:20pm Peru v Uruguay (Game 2 – Nines)
12:50 Chile v El Salvador (Full sides)
3pm Newtown v Wentworthville.
The efforts of the 100% volunteer-run Latin Heat Rugby League are supported by Guzman y Gomez Mexican Taquerias, S.H.I.E.L.D Security, Tattoo Tears, OneBigSwitch.com.au, Jani-King Cleaning, SeriousAboutRL.com, Rugby League Team Manager 2015 computer game, Retrocom Digital TV Specialists, Colombianos en Brisbane, Link Australia Student Services, Raw Juicery, SEMCAR Mechanics, Lichtnauer and Associates Accountants, Cabramatta Ink, Majestic Property Maintenance, and Darkside Studio Photography.